Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I Love A Man, Part 1 of 2

I have a confession to make. I love a man. I love Jesus.

If I could teleport back into the ancient world and live among the apostles, I would compete with St. John to lay my head on the bosom of Jesus (John 13:23) -- although St. John would win since he is the apostle of purity. Is there a more sublime and precious sound than the beating of the Sacred Heart (Matt 11:29)? This is the Heart which started beating eighteen days into Blessed Virgin Mary's pregnancy. This is the Heart which synchronized with His mother's heart upon her smile. This is the Heart which stopped beating to save me from sin. This is the Heart which was pierced after death and gushed forth graces. "This is the Heart," according to Jesus in a private revelation given to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690), "which has loved men so much and yet men do not want to love Me in return, and for recognition I mainly receive only ingratitude."

Like a shareholder in a corporation, I partially own that ingratitude. My love for God is deficient. A good Christian life I try to live in imitations of the saints (1 Cor 11:1), but my results are incredibly mediocre in comparison. The greatest commandment is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matt 22:36-38) and I have not done that well. Will I ever? If I am saved at all, there's a good sporting chance that I will be "least in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt 5:19) for my inconsistent (and sometimes tepid) affection.

As I have learned, knowing how the other wishes to be loved is key to any relationship's success. Everyone recognizes love in different ways. Some spouses feel loved by compliments, others feel it through receiving gifts, others from physical intimacy, and so on. None of these are exclusive and combinations are limitless. It is like each spouse "listens" for love on a certain radio frequency; love transmitted on that frequency will be heard and recognized. However, communicating love in unexpected/unrecognizable ways will largely sound like a "resounding gong or a clanging cymbal" (1 Cor 13:1) and lead to confusion and hurt feelings. Thankfully, no one has to guess at how God wishes to be loved. Jesus our Divine Spouse made it clear: "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15).

Keeping the Commandments is where hearing meets doing. Transforming heartfelt knowledge into heartfelt action requires grace and a choice. I can certainly claim to love Jesus, but if I seldom choose to act on it, what eternal good am I achieving (James 2:26)? And, when I die, what evidence will I have to prove my words? Likewise, I think the pinnacle question asked by Jesus at the Last Judgement will be, "How did you love Me?", and the answer will separates sheep from goats (Matt 25:31-46). The difference between them is the sheep spent time in prayer (ora) and work (labora) for others for God; the goats held the Christian faith and sinned gravely by omission. Thus loving God leads to the second greatest Commandment: "love your neighbor as yourself" (Matt 22:39).